Wisc. hospitals may offer big uninsured discounts

With hospital industry pricing policies under increasing pressure, the Wisconsin Hospital Association has taken the bull by the horns. The hospital trade group is now recommending that uninsured patients automatically receive fee discounts similar to those enjoyed by managed care plans. The group is also suggesting that members work harder to let the uninsured know about charity care and financial assistance options.

WHA's recommendations aren't being made in a vacuum. Not only do its members, like hospitals across the U.S., face mounting pressure from advocacy groups, Wisconsin's facilities face scrutiny from state officials, too. In 2005, then Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager put several hospitals on notice that she wasn't happy with them charging the uninsured more than health plans. She filed a complaint against one hospital, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-St. Joseph, which has since agreed to discount its prices by 45 percent for uninsured patients.

To learn more about the issue:
- read this Associated Press piece